Family business (II)
Could Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu be thinking that the United States is a Muslim country in the Middle East? When old-age passion for youthful ideals hit the walls of realism even such silly questions can be justified.
It is an academic fact that Professor Davutoğlu’s foreign policy masterpiece, “Strategic Depth,” was pilloried for the idea of “warding off the major powers from our backyard.” Most recently, Mr Davutoglu has added another country to the list of unwanted countries in our backyard: Israel. So, Mr Davutoğlu does not want major powers and Israel at our backyard that is the Middle East. According to the foreign minister’s most recent words; 1- Turkey will never discuss Syria’s future with Israel, 2- Turkey is now the main actor in the Middle East, 3- Turkey will never consent to Israel’s meddling into any Muslim country, 4- Syria is a problem of the Muslim world in the region, and 5- Syria is our (Muslims’) family business.
This position, in rhetoric, is not inconsistent with his “Strategic Depth,” but is an extension of it since the countries Turkey must ward off the Middle East is now major western powers plus Israel. But of course, in practice, when Syria downed a Turkish military aircraft last June the first door Mssrs Erdoğan and Davutoğlu knocked on was NATO’s.
These gentlemen should sit down and relax in a moment of peace before they provide further ammunition for the now-famous aphorism “Turkey’s bark is worse than its bite.” Did or did not Mr Erdoğan discuss Syria (and Iraq and Iran too) with President Barack Obama in Washington? Did or did not Mr Erdogan say, only too recently, that allegations of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons should mean that President Obama’s “red line” for the U.S. to take action against Syria has been crossed? I shall quote Mr Erdogan from an interview with NBC News’ Ann Curry: “We want the U.S. to assume more responsibilities and take further steps.”
What Mr Erdoğan said was merely a diplomatic wording reflecting of his government’s “let’s bomb Syria, but you go first” hysteria. I am not arguing whether or not Mr Assad deserves to be bombed. I am only asking how consistent it is when the foreign minister says that Syria is a problem of the Muslim world in the Middle East, a family business, and the prime minister is explicitly using all his diplomatic skills to get the Americans more and more engaged in “our family business.”
Since when, really, the Americans are “family?” Since when, using Mr Davutoğlu’s definition of countries eligible to engage in Syria, the U.S. is Muslim and in the Middle East? What about China and Russia? Muslim countries of the Middle East? Apparently Mr Davutoğlu’s “family” is a big one and has part-time members; members who count only when he thinks they can serve an interest.
Minister Davutoglu; please stand behind your own words and sort out the Syria mess without any major powers involved. And do you not claim that Turkey is the main actor in the Middle Easy? It should be able to stop the bloodshed in Syria. If you need help and support from the “family members” i.e. Muslim nations in the region, I have an idea: Why do you not discuss Syria’s future with Iran, Iraq and Lebanon all of which fit into your definition of “family?” They are all predominantly Muslim and in the region -- I cannot think of any others in Syria’s more immediate vicinity.
As for the Arab-Israeli conflict, your rules about excluding Israel from the future of any Muslim country actually rules out talks with the Jewish state. But you can discuss the future of the Palestinian state with Syria, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, if you like. Good luck, your excellency.